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Hollywood Movies Make Way into India's Cinemas

Hollywood movies are beginning to grab a bigger chunk of India's huge movie market, traditionally dominated by its own film industry, which is known as Bollywood.

There's good news for Hollywood films in India: a larger Indian audience than ever before is viewing them.

The Matrix Revolutions opened in India and 60 other countries earlier this month, and theater owners say it ran to packed audiences for several days.

It is the latest Hollywood movie to have fared well in India. Last year, Spiderman grossed more than $6.5 million, which is more than many hits from India's own film industry, called Bollywood.

Bollywood produces nearly 1,000 films a year, and while it retains its sway over India's billion-plus population, theater owners say Hollywood films are getting more popular.

Film distributors say films with action, suspense and special effects fare best because Indian films often lack these.

Komal Nahata, editor of India's movie trade magazine Film Information, says Hollywood movies are earning larger revenues not only from English-speaking, urban audiences. He says most of these films are now translated in several widely spoken Indian languages, such as Hindi, Telugu and Tamil, and reach more people.

"Around '94 or '95, the dubbed version of Jurrasic Park did such huge business, that the trend of dubbing English films into Hindi started," he said. "Slowly but surely, Hollywood studios began dubbing their films in Telugu and Tamil also. And before Bollywood knew it, Hollywood films were showing all over India."

According to industry estimates, Hollywood films now gross about 8-10 percent of the Indian film market, which is worth approximately $120 million.

The explosive growth of multi-screen theaters is also helping Hollywood movies do well. In the past year, India's entertainment industry has built more multiplexes to cater to middle and upper class cinema-goers in New Delhi and Bombay. More are opening in smaller towns.

However, Bollywood watchers say the popularity of Hollywood films represents no threat to the Indian industry, and insist the Indian market is big enough to allow both to co-exist.